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Instructional Coaching

Instructional Coaching Activities

The activities of instructional coaching occur in three episodes that are repeated to create a cycle (see, e.g., Knight, Elford, Hock, Dunekack, Bradley, Deshler, & Knight, 2015). The foci of the three episodes are illustrated in the diagram below. They are: (1) identify, (2) learn, and (3) improve. This cycle of activities is often repeated until the coaching goals are achieved.

Identify. Instructional coaching within a PD program identifies relevant areas of need and strength in order to set learning goals and a coaching agenda. It may include collecting baseline data: student test scores, copies of lesson plans, or observation of the teacher and students in the classroom. Knight and colleagues (2015) recommend videotaping for this purpose.

Learn. With learning goals in place, the coach-teacher-team can set the coaching routines that seem appropriate. These might include some form of demonstration—the coach or another teacher enacting a technique (in person, on video, even in a written document to guide a teacher in using the technique). After learning about the technique, the teacher tries it while either being observed or videotaped. Whatever the PD content, practice for the teacher and feedback from the coach are typical next steps.

Improve. The teacher and coach analyze and reflect on relevant data to determine whether or not coaching goals have been met and are having the desired effect. Sometimes more practice is needed; sometimes minor modifications to the teaching technique make sense. Both the teacher and the coach reflect on what they are learning. And the cycle is repeated until the coach and teacher think they’ve achieved the learning goal.

Instructional coaching at its most effective in school improvement efforts is part of a district or school’s systematic engagement with collaborative learning (Devine, Meyers, & Houssemand, 2013). This engagement supports the coaching partnership, encourages voluntary participation in coaching, and allocates adequate resources to the coaching program.